Last week, Yale students received the semiannual Report of Complaints of Sexual Misconduct in their inboxes. In the past, Yale has been accused of being “too soft” on sexual assault. Consequently, in a schoolwide report detailing 81 complaints, I hoped to see swift action and harsh punishments for those who violated Yale’s policies on sexual misconduct. I did not expect to read that the disciplinary action taken against a student who committed rape on campus would essentially amount to a mandated gap year.
While I urge you all to read the report for yourselves, I will highlight the incident that should unsettle every student on campus, straight from the semiannual report itself: “A [Yale College] student alleged that another YC student engaged in sexual penetration without consent. The [University-Wide Committee on Sexual Misconduct] found sufficient evidence to support the allegation. The respondent was suspended for two terms until May 2017.”
Perhaps this respondent is backpacking through Europe right now, using the time to travel and try new cuisines. Maybe the assailant is relaxing at home, finally finding the time to catch up on “Stranger Things.” Or, in true Yalie fashion, this individual might have viewed this as the perfect opportunity to land an internship. Not a wasted year if you can build on your resume, right? In the interim, I can only imagine what the complainant — the individual who experienced this sexual assault — is going through right now. Somehow, I doubt that this pain will disappear by May.
An identical allegation was listed in last year’s UWC report: “A YC student engaged in sexual penetration of another YC student without consent.” The accused student was expelled. The findings by the UWC investigation for these two cases were the same and yet the result was different. I understand that each sexual assault case is uniquely handled and the wishes of the complainant are often taken into account with regards to course of action. We are privy to neither the individual case report nor its explicit details. Regardless, it is difficult, if not impossible, to fathom the grounds on which the UWC can possibly justify allowing a student to return to campus and receive a diploma after sexually assaulting another student. At a certain point, the details become less important than the outcome.
How is it possible that individuals found guilty in cases like these are not expelled?
What’s even more striking is how the Yale administration chooses to handle faculty-student cases. In one instance, the UWC found sufficient evidence that a faculty member “engaged in sexual harassment that created a hostile environment.” The punishment: A one-term suspension, some required training on sexual harassment and the loss of leadership roles or advising new students for five years. As for the current students this faculty member advises? They’ll never know what their advisor has done. And in five years, this individual will be eligible to advise new students who will be equally oblivious to the sexual misconduct that elicited one line in a 17-page report.
Print their names.
If you refuse to rid our campus of staff members who engage in sexual misconduct, at the very least tell us who they are. Print the names of the faculty members who have committed sexual assault, as confirmed by the UWC upon thorough investigation. Print the names of those who abuse their positions of authority and engage in sexual misconduct toward students and other faculty members. Print the names of those who do not deserve the protection or luxury of anonymity. A freshman earnestly searching for an advisor to guide him or her through the next three years deserves to know if this faculty member has harmed others.
On numerous occasions, members of the Yale administration have proclaimed a zero-tolerance policy for sexual assault. This is just untrue. And it’s a claim undermined by the semiannual reports the administration makes publicly available. Do not claim that we have a zero-tolerance policy while assailants freely walk on our campus.
In the case of faculty members who take on roles of mentorship and guidance, these violations are especially egregious. There are multiple professors at Yale who have violated the University’s policies on student-teacher consensual relations — and we have no idea who they are. The purported goal of the semiannual report is to raise community awareness on complaints surrounding sexual misconduct. So why is the UWC withholding information that could prevent new cases in the future? Our University should uphold its commitment to protecting its students, rather than its assailants.
Serena Tharakan is a junior in Jonathan Edwards College. Contact her at email@example.com .